Wednesday, June 19, 2019

412. Ricketts and Shannon as Robert Ross's Characters (3)

Robert Ross frequently referred to his closest friends in his critical and prose pieces written for periodicals and newspapers and collected in Masques & Phases in 1909.

Robert Ross, Masques & Phases (1909)

In a review of an exhibition of the work of Holman Hunt at Leicester Galleries in 1906, he asserted that every critic invents his own brand of Pre-Raphaelitism and believes 'he knows the great secret'. Following Ruskin, Rossetti and Hall Caine tried their hand at definitions. However, even if these critical approaches would be helpful, Ross insists on examining the individual paintings, not the 'movement', and he finds that in almost all genres other painters were better than Holman Hunt. With his religious subjects, he complains, Hunt is the most popular of them all, 'a scapegoat sent out to wander by the dead seas of popularity', and he frames him as 'the missing link between art and popularity'. The painter William Richmond has 'brandished Excalibur in the form of a catalogue for Mr. Hunt's pictures'. Obviously, that was too much for Ross.

William Holman Hunt, 'Self-Portrait' (1867) [Uffizi Gallery]
At this point, the essay takes a turn and ends like a medieval story about a 'good knight and true', who, as a Knight for the Royal Academy of Art battles against modernism in its many forms.

Through the broken tracery of the Italian Gothic window a breeze or draught comes softly and fans his strong academic arms; he feels a twinge. Some Merlin told him he would suffer from ricketts with shannon complications. Seizing Excalibur, he opens the door cautiously, "Draw, caitiffs," he cries; "draw." "Perhaps they cannot draw; perhaps they are impressionists," said a raven on the hill; and he flew away.
('Mr. Holman Hunt at the Leicester Galleries', p. 179-180).

Ricketts with shannon complications! As if 'rickets' disease is not worrying enough.